Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

OXFORD -- Oxford College celebrated Earth Day with a "solar-bration" Thursday.

Students and instructors involved in sustainability projects gathered on campus Thursday afternoon to show off some of their green initiatives and celebrate one large initiative -- the first addition of solar panels on the campus.

The solar panels have been up for several months, but school officials said not many have noticed them, so they wanted to point them out.

"They look like an awning and are camouflaged," said biology professor Theodosia Wade, an organizer of the project.

The panels sit on a side rooftop on the south side of Haygood dormitory. They produce currents that signal pumps on an adjacent water barrel that catches rainwater to send water into the nearby Educational Garden Project, which was developed in 2008 to focus on locally grown food.

The projects are supported through Emory University's Office of Sustainability Initiatives, which was formed in the fall of 2006.

"Since we're consuming a fair amount of energy, we're always trying to reduce that," Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen said.

He said the college is signing on to a type of energy that will be increasingly important over the next several years.

"The engineering (of solar energy) has gotten so much better," said Bowen, also a Kenan Professor of Biology at Oxford. "And the cost of producing electricity ... is much reduced (and) the cost of fossil fuels has gone up ... making alternatives more attractive."

A software program also can monitor the energy the solar panels use.

Between January and Thursday, Bowen said they produced 610 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power a television set for 4,226 hours, five computers for a year and 22 homes for a day. Using the alternative energy, the college has avoided the production of 2.1 pounds of nitrous oxygen products that produce smog, 1,356 pounds of carbon dioxide and 5.9 pounds of a product that creates acid rain.

"Even though it looks modest (in size), it's helped us avoid a significant amount of pollution," he said about the solar panels. "And it keeps going. ... In the future, we'll find other ways to make this electricity useful to us."

Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said he was grateful to the college for leading the way in this new initiative.

"Oxford is very much involved in environmental issues," Roseberry said.

Like the college did with one of its dormitories, the city is building a LEED-qualified building for its new city hall that will include an underground irrigation system and other "green" features. Also, Roseberry said Oxford is proud to be a Tree City for the past 11 years, as well as host an active tree board and arborist. The city also provides a recycling program to residents and is looking for ways to enhance its trail system.